Monday, March 30, 2009

Musings: Accountability

I saw — and felt — more of the chilly, cloudy, windy wee hours than I really wanted to when Koko twice woke me in the night so she could go outside and eat grass.

She was still stopping frequently to nibble grass alongside the road, but not, of course, in the places where Round-up had been sprayed, when we ran into farmer Jerry on his way to work this morning. He was a little bit grumpy because equipment problems had kept from accomplishing all he wanted on his farm over the weekend.

“I was born in the wrong century,” he said, and I understood what he meant.

They’re always inventing more stuff that’s supposed to save us time, labor and money, and then we devote untold amounts of time, labor and money first getting it to work and then keeping it running — until the next new invention comes along to render it obsolete.

I was reminded of that when I saw a report about test flights of the “Terrafugia Transition,” a two-seater car that turns into a plane and can travel 450 miles at speeds of 115 mph. Oh, great, just as they’re talking about increasing fuel-economy standards for cars, scientists come up with a new way to burn more fuel. As company CEO Carl Dietrich noted: "This breakthrough changes the world of personal mobility."

Ummm, yeah, for the upwardly mobile, anyway. At $194,000, only the super rich will have this opportunity to waste even more resources.

That’s one problem with scientists. A lot of times they just want to make/do stuff to see if they can, without thinking about the consequences. Or other times they do think about it, but proceed anyway, because no one holds them accountable.

You know, kind of like the Bush Administration officials who sanctioned torture. Except for now six of them are being investigated by the Spanish courts for their dirty deeds. As the New York Times reports:

A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.


The article goes on to report that some American legal experts are saying the warrants could be more symbolic than practical and would not lead to arrests if the officials do not leave the U.S.

That very well may be, but it doesn’t change the underlying issue, which is accountability among, gasp, attorneys:

But Mr. [Gonzalo] Boye [the Madrid lawyer] said that lawyers should be held accountable for the effects of their work. Noting that the association he represents includes many lawyers, he said: “This is a case from lawyers against lawyers. Our profession does not allow us to misuse our legal knowledge to create a pseudo-legal frame to justify, stimulate and cover up torture.”

Go Spain! But don’t just stop with those six. Let’s bring in Rumsfield, Bush and Cheney, too.

While we’re on the topic of dirty deeds, though of a lesser scale than torture, a letter circulated by kanaka maoli scholars protesting the desecration of burials at Naue received one noteworthy response, and that was from John D'Amario. He works for Joseph Brescia, who is building the house atop the oceanfront burials, at a California company called Architectural Glass & Aluminum, where Brescia is listed on the website as CEO. In describing AGA, the website notes:

Its single foundational block is INTEGRITY. A very simple value.

That value seemed to be missing, however, in a March 25 email that D’Amario sent to Professor Kehaulani Kauanui at Wesleyan University, who was listed as the contact on the kanaka scholars letter. He wrote simply:

So how do you know that the people buried out there weren't assholes??

58 comments:

Just a Guy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew Cooper said...

You are confusing scientists and engineers. Nothing involved in making that car is basic science. Building something like that is an engineering exercise.

Your statements exhibit a basic ignorance about the sciences and engineering in general. There are untold garage engineers across the world who build all manner of things, just because they think they can do it. Very few of those ideas are commercial successes and get built in any quantity, enough to have any effect on the environment. Flying cars are impractical for many reasons, cost is just one of them. At that price I do not think we need to worry about many being built.

Garage engineers are important, thousands of people playing with new ideas that might help. All we can do is encourage those designs that might help the situation. Small efficiency improvements or alternative energy applications that reduce the load on the environment. Most ideas will not work, a few will. Many of these tinkerers participate in communities that freely share ideas. Websites and email groups posting designs and software source codes.

These efforts need to be encouraged, not denigrated. We are a technological society, our problems will not be solved by returning to 19th century technologies.

Anonymous said...

The farmer can farm by hand. Or enlist the help of draft animals or humans. Or use pieces of machinery. Choice is his. People will always need and use the product of his laborers.
Up to him.

Dawson said...

> These efforts need to be encouraged, not denigrated. We are a technological society, our problems will not be solved by returning to 19th century technologies. <

Mr. Cooper misses the point. The similarity of Joe Brescia and Carl Dietrich has squat to do with science or engineering.

Joan's post is not a slam on technology. It's a call for the thing technology has historically lacked: responsibility to something wider than one's own wants and needs.

Anonymous said...

"So how do you know that the people buried out there weren't assholes??"

takes one to know one!

Anonymous said...

1. so comments like the first one (now deleted), however well put, are now verboten?

2. "These efforts need to be encouraged, not denigrated."

-- totally. this country need to keep its tech edge and support innovation. the old bell labs, los alamos, MIT, young kids writing new software codes, guys in a garage testing hydrogen engines, etc...all commendable

3. if true, that "So how do you know that the people buried out there weren't assholes??" thing is really weird, at best. it would be hard to imagine a context where that is not a total jerk statement / question

Anonymous said...

They may have been assholes, but they were kanaka assholes. That makes all the difference to the vocal few.

Dawson said...

> They may have been assholes, but they were kanaka assholes. That makes all the difference to the vocal few. <

Speaking of people with their heads in their rectums, there are few more powerful ways to disrespect someone than to build your house on the graves of their ancestors and your septic tank among their bones. With every flush, your excrement leeches your own personal message into the soil.

Not that the stench bothers the Brescias and D'Amarios of the world: they long ago convinced themselves that their shit doesn't stink.

Anonymous said...

They may have been assholes, but they were kanaka assholes.

Oh thatʻs good. And thatʻs right. And isnʻt for anyone else to say especially from the assholeʻs mouth...Mr.INTEGRITY (whatʻs the clownʻs name?) Bresciaʻs boy.

Anonymous said...

"...your septic tank among their bones. With every flush, your excrement leeches your own personal message into the soil."

That's such a beautiful, lyrical thought! Thanks for the sentiment (sediment?) that made my day!

Anonymous said...

You can take a crap on my ancestor's bones any time you want. I only wish I could sell tickets.

Joan said...

1. so comments like the first one (now deleted), however well put, are now verboten?

Yup. Anonymous differences of opinion are fine. But anyone who wants to take a pot shot at me or any other person posting with a real name, must be prepared to use a real name, too.

Andrew Cooper said...

While I disagree with the first part of Joan's post I agree with her on the second. Engineers should be free to invent and build. It is society that should decide whether the invention is worthwhile and if it gets adopted and used.

I agree with the second part of the post. I just wish it was US courts filing charges on Bush and his cronies.

I did catch the offensive post before it got zapped, I might have done the same on my own blog, undecided on that. It contained little of substance and was mostly a personal attack. It was also interesting in a way, highlighting a very real difference in worldviews that is quite common today, one I find myself straddling on occasion.

Anonymous said...

"Yup. Anonymous differences of opinion are fine. But anyone who wants to take a pot shot at me or any other person posting with a real name, must be prepared to use a real name, too."

-- hey, your blog. as you see fit. it would be interesting to re-post it, and let others weigh in as to it being a "pot shot" (and granted, ive laid into people here, but i try not be to crass or crude about it). no big deal i guess, but ive seen worse posts stand

ps - for the (new) rule of law lovers - your chance to endorse the latest big (supreme) court decision

Anonymous said...

"You can take a crap on my ancestor's bones any time you want. I only wish I could sell tickets."
March 30, 2009 9:06 PM


Thatʻs why opinions from someone like you donʻt count. Why would anyone want an opinion from someone that makes a statement like that? My guess is taking a crap on you would be OK with you as well.

american merde

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dawson said...

> it would be interesting to re-post it, and let others weigh in as to it being a "pot shot" <

I read it, and it wasn't a "pot shot." It was a vomitus spew of rage.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dawson, it was not. It was your standard, "cancel my subscription" type complaint.

Anonymous said...

"My guess is taking a crap on you would be OK with you as well."

Once I'm dead, have at it. I place absolutely no value on my remains.

Dawson said...

> You can take a crap on my ancestor's bones any time you want. I only wish I could sell tickets.
...I place absolutely no value on my remains. <


In that sense you and Joe Brescia are soulmates in society: neither of you have a shred of respect for the values of others. It's all about you and the money you can make -- others be damned.

Anonymous said...

The law is the law. If Bresca is breaking it, he should be stopped. Values, however, are situational. His values, assuming execution of them is within the law, are more important than "your" values, simply because they are his.

Being generally amoral myself, I would agree. One should always be free to exercise his values within existing laws.

That's why in non-CCR communities, one can paint their house baby puke green and his neighbor can paint his purple, and across the street that neighbor can put a big skull-and-crossbones on his garage.

Same for the choice to build or not build over ancient bones.

Anonymous said...

Not quite. And values are what laws are derived from.

Anonymous said...

"If Bresca is breaking it, he should be stopped."

-- i know a couple of rational people in the planning dept; they say that guy did have all his permits lined up...

"And values are what laws are derived from."

-- yes and reasonableness can also be a value of sorts, and thankfully many laws are based in reason (as opposed to a generational "value")

Anonymous said...

I agree that values are what laws are derrived from. However, only the law is enforcable. That's why people with different values can do whatever they want on their property so long as no legal statutes are broken.

That's why the "moral claim" to the lands by the Hawaiians doesn't stand a chance unless that moral claim can be found embedded unambiguously in law.

Anonymous said...

Don't ever confuse "legal" with "just" or "right".

The legal system, especially civil law, exists for dispute resolution, not the attainment of somebody's definition of "justice".

How many of you "justice seekers" would jump at a chance for a favorable plea bargain if the need arose? Or would you say that you don't deserve it and should be prosecuted to the full extent?

Everyone makes fun of defense lawyers until you really need a good one. Then you want the meanest, smartest, most politically connected one you can find in order to get out of your bind with the least blood lost.

Anonymous said...

"The legal system, especially civil law, exists for dispute resolution, not the attainment of somebody's definition of "justice"."

-- "justice" is achieved with a respectable degree of regularity in the US. just sayin

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"justice" is achieved with a respectable degree of regularity in the US. just sayin

And I'll bet the "people's jury" will say 50/50. HSF court decision was just and SCOTUS ceded land decision was unjust.

Situational...justice perceived is justice achieved?

Anonymous said...

The HSF decision was an unjust decision by an out of control court and the SCOTUS ceded land decision was right on the mark. No other way for it to come out. The native hawaiians still get their 20%. Perfectly just. You were saying?

Anonymous said...

I was saying that the court decision stopping (forever?) the HSF was deemed "just" by some and "unjust" by others. The local rabble on the out islands (other than the BI), of course, felt "justice" was done.

The SCOTUS decision was widely considered "unjust" by the masses who felt the apology bill had teeth.

"Justice" is a feeling rather than a reality. You just can't please everyone at the same time. Without adversarial positions, we wouldn't need a legal system.

It's true...we can't "just all get along".

Anonymous said...

The native hawaiians should get exactly what every other citizen of the USA gets...nothing more or less.

I disfavor any racial/ethnic/cultural "special treatment".

Dawson said...

> The native hawaiians should get exactly what every other citizen of the USA gets...nothing more or less. <

Deal. Of course to make it fair, it needs to work both ways: every other citizen of the USA should get exactly what the native Hawaiians have gotten... nothing more or less. And since you're so interested in fairness, you'll have no objection to the native Hawaiians illegally overthrowing the government of the United States and taking it over for their own commercial interests.

Right?

Katy Rose said...

Wait a second. If Norway took over Poland and declared it part of Norway, and the Polish people demanded their nation back, would you call what the Polish people were doing a demand for "special treatment"? Or would you say they were launching a legitimate political resistance to an occupation and defending their national independence?

Anonymous said...

I disfavor any racial/ethnic/cultural "special treatment".

As spoken by a white man who has already gotten all sorts of special treatment.

Anonymous said...

"If Norway took over Poland and declared it part of Norway, and the Polish people demanded their nation back..."

A hundred years after the fact? It would be a little more complicated with that much water under the bridge.

Anonymous said...

But the Hawaiians resisted from the start, with the Queen even traveling to Washington to plead her case. It's not like this just started a few years ago.

Katy Rose said...

exactly.

Anonymous said...

> The native hawaiians should get exactly what every other citizen of the USA gets...nothing more or less. <

Deal. Of course to make it fair, it needs to work both ways: every other citizen of the USA should get exactly what the native Hawaiians have gotten... nothing more or less.


Nope, it doesn't have to work both ways...only one way. I believe everyone who is a citizen of the USA, which included all hawaiians whether they believe it or not, should get equal treatment under the laws of the USA. That's ALL that counts.

Anonymous said...

I disfavor any racial/ethnic/cultural "special treatment".

As spoken by a white man who has already gotten all sorts of special treatment.

-------

OK...I want all US citizens to get the same treatment under the law that "white men" have gotten. Remember, not all "white men" are doing great either.

USA promises and should fulfill it's obligation to guarantee "the pursuit of happiness" equally, but not necessarily the attainment thereof, which is not promised.

Dawson said...

> USA promises and should fulfill it's obligation to guarantee "the pursuit of happiness" equally, but not necessarily the attainment thereof, which is not promised. <

Excellent. The USA can start by not doing illegal takeovers of other nations for its own commercial gain.

Look, no matter how you spin it, the USA screwed up big time with Hawaii. Their subsequent actions have only compounded their original crime. Calling for "equality of treatment" or parsing what the USA promises is bullcrap.

Anonymous said...

What's past it past. We screwed the Native Americans, too. That's just what we do.

The NA's arn't getting their land back other than being subject to the Dept of the Interior, and neither will the Hawaiians, assuming the Akaka Bill passes.

Anonymous said...

"the USA screwed up big time with Hawaii."

-- i would imagine a pretty persuasive "standard of living" and "life expectancy" argument could be made to the contrary (ill defer to whatever the US census data shows)

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder what the Hawaiians would do with this place if a miracle happened and they ended up owning it as a separate country.

No American support whatsoever.

Would they revert to a nation like Tonga? non-American Samoa? Marshall Islands?

If and when we leave, we'd take all portable infrastructure with us. They would be left with phone lines and electric lines on poles, but no telecom computers, etc.

Or, if they wanted all the existing American amenities, they as a separate country would have to pay through the nose for them. Much more than they pay now...and with fewer taxpayers.

I sometimes really don't think they know what's in store for them if they get what they want.

Dawson said...

> Would they revert to a nation like Tonga? non-American Samoa? Marshall Islands?

If and when we leave, we'd take all portable infrastructure with us. They would be left with phone lines and electric lines on poles, but no telecom computers, etc.

Or, if they wanted all the existing American amenities, they as a separate country would have to pay through the nose for them. Much more than they pay now...and with fewer taxpayers. <


I genuinely mean no offense by this, but the core of your premise is purely racist and centuries old: the presumption that advanced European (later American) society has the answers while "primitive native culture" does not.

Anonymous said...

oh come on...did it really strike you as "purely racist"...mmm? was there not a pretty good chance the guy was just speculating and predicting out loud? and im fine with taking you for your word you dont mean to offend the guy

and as fun as it is, the "which society would an average modern human want to live in" discussion, we can leave for another time

more to the point - should you not have seen it already, i came across the following: Bougainville Island

it is right up your alley

the link to the corresponding "coconut revolution" video (that is the name of it) is below:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1192286025577999101

if the above is new to you, it should help much in providing relevant and concrete examples of tropical island societies which have made a go of it, against all odds, and succeeded

it is such a great story. and man those guys are as tough as nails, and very inventive (i wont ruin the story - but these guys ran rio tinto off island, made their own weapons in a guerrilla war, ran cars and lights on coconuts, used drip irrigation and hydro, etc etc)

ps - kauaieclectic lady, at the risk of your by now well worn delete button, i would suggest you too would find the above story and video esp riveting

Anonymous said...

I don't think any reasonable person in this, the first decade of the 21st century, envisions "paradise" or even a desirable place to live, a 19th century tropic society. I suppose some do, but I do not consider them "reasonable".

Assuming Tonga, non-American Samoa or the Marshall Islands are not gut-wrenching hell-holes, I still would not prefer them to any north American or western European society.

"Forward" doesn't have to mean "backward".

Anonymous said...

I don't think his comment was racist at all. Hawaiian Ocean View Estates (HOVE) on the BI has many Marshall Island "residences". I wouldn't let my dog live there.

You'd have to tear it down just to build a slum.

Not my idea of any desirable standard of living in the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

"has many Marshall Island "residences". I wouldn't let my dog live there."

-- wtf? explain pls

March 30, 2009 12:14 PM
March 31, 2009 10:11 AM
March 31, 2009 2:39 PM
March 31, 2009 8:22 PM
April 1, 2009 5:15 PM
April 2, 2009 7:43 PM

Anonymous said...

You'd have to see it to believe it. It looks like some kind of "save the children" documentary.

Multiple non-working cars...plywood shacks...emaciated dogs tied to trees....whole yard is dirt...multiple kids looking like Madonna adoptees...

A barren lava field would look more inviting.

Damn horrible.

Anonymous said...

well thanks for the response. ill try not to go all dawson on you. guess one would have to see this area you note first hand

Anonymous said...

We live on the BI and there are many areas that truly qualify as "third world" in the worst possible sense.

Anonymous said...

It's called poverty. Not everyone can afford to live in a gated community. Quit being so judgmental and have some compassion.

Anonymous said...

In HOVE, some people live like that because they have to...some because they want to.

The latter is beyond my understanding...

Anonymous said...

You may have to live poor but you don't have to live dirty. There are many "humble abodes" in HOVE that are neat and tidy. Others are real shitholes for no reason.

Katy Rose said...

And there would be some really filthy and unkempt mansions around if all the house-cleaners, yard maintainence guys and pool repairmen went on strike.

Laziness and slovenliness cuts across all social classes, remember.

But if I had to generalize, I'd say that lower-income people are usually working much harder, more dangerous, and longer hours than their wealthy counterparts.

But paper cuts are a bummer I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Download (via torrent) the film "A Day Without A Mexican" to make the point.

Anonymous said...

the "A Day Without A Mexican" is a funny name etc, but via the youtube trailer...i dunno

its no "coconut revolution" tho

bougainville rules!